Mavis Villiers

Mavis Villiers (born Mavis Clare Cooney; 18 January 1911, Sydney – March 1976, Paddington, London), was an Australian-born British actress of stage, film and television. Her parents were John and Clara (née Villiers) Cooney. Her brother, Cecil Cooney, was a camera operator and cinematographer.[1] Her stage name, Villiers, was taken from her maternal grandfather.[2][3]

Mavis Villiers
Press photo 1966
Mavis Clare Cooney

(1911-01-18)18 January 1911
Neutral Bay, Sydney, Australia
DiedMarch 1976
Paddington, London
Years active19211975
Spouse(s)Donald Everett Miller (19451946; his death)

Life and career

Mavis emigrated to the United States with her family in 1921, aged 11.[1] The family settled in Hollywood, where her father became a technician at a film company.[4][5] Both Mavis and her brother Cecil began their careers in the silent era; her first accredited film role was as 'the Girl' in a 1927 short comedy,The Bum's Rush, featuring expat Australian star Snub Pollard. Following her parents' divorce, Mavis and her mother Clara migrated to London in 1933.[6] Her brother Cecil followed at some stage; her father remained in California where he died at Ventura in 1960.[7]

Her stage roles included that of Mrs Van Mier in the 1962 London production of Noël Coward's Sail Away at the Savoy Theatre.[8] She was also in the cast of the 1957 West End production of Damn Yankees at the London Coliseum; this production featured Australian actor Bill Kerr as Mr. Applegate.[9] Her sole appearance on the American Broadway stage, was in the role of Aunt Lizzy Sweeney, in the first Broadway production of Brian Friel's Philadelphia Here I Come! at the Helen Hayes Theatre in 1966;[10][11] she also played the same role in the 1975 film version of that play, her last role before her death.

She had appeared in films from 1927-75. Some of her more prominent film roles were in:The Bum's Rush (1927), Saloon Bar (1940), South American George (1941)One Exciting Night (1944), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Victim (1961), and Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1975).[12]

Her television appearances between 1938 and 1972, include roles in various productions, series and episodes. They include the BBC's Sunday Night Theatre, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents, The Vise, The Twilight Zone, The Saint (TV series), From a Bird's Eye View and Night Gallery.

Personal life

Mavis met her future husband, Captain Donald E. Miller, at the American Eagle Club in Charing Cross Road, London, in 1941. She was working at American Eagle Club at the time. Miller was a Pilot Officer in the American Eagle Squadrons attached to the Royal Air Force. He was subsequently shot down over Germany and taken prisoner for two years until released on VE day in 1945. The couple were married in London on 16 June 1945 and planned to settle in the United States after Mavis had completed a contractual obligation to appear in a French film, Le Battalion du ciel (1946) (1946).[13]

Before they could be reunited, Donald, now working for Pan-American Airways in San Francisco, died from injuries sustained in a car accident on 4 April 1946, nine months after their marriage. The union was childless; she did not remarry.

Mavis Villiers died from pneumonia at her Paddington flat in 1976, aged 65.

Selected filmography


  1. Canadian Passenger Lists, 'Niagra' May 1921,; accessed 25 July 2015.
  2. Profile,; accessed 25 July 2015
  3. Australia Marriage Index, Clara Smythe m.28/12/1904,; accessed 25 July 2015.
  4.; accessed 25 July 2015.
  7.; accessed 25 July 2015.
  9. University of Kent Library-Theater Collection,; accessed 25 July 2015.
  10. Profile,; accessed 25 July 2015.
  11. Profile, The Bridgeport Post, 17 February 1966, Connecticut, p. 14],; accessed 25 July 2015.
  13. Dixon Evening Telegraph (7 September 1945), Dixon, Illinois, p. 3,; accessed 25 July 2015.
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